GOVERNMENT changes in the way that people have to pay for social care could still be worrying for many families, says a Sheffield solicitor who specialises in the area.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was introducing the changes as families face “ruinous costs” on care fees.
Up to 40,000 people a year have to sell their homes because they face unlimited care bills.
At present, anyone with assets worth more than £23,250 has to pay for their own care but the Government is proposing that the threshold will rise to £123,000 in 2017.
The Government has also pledged that no-one will have to pay more than £75,000 towards their care bill in their lifetime.
Mr Hunt said that the plans, expected to cost about £1billion a year, will be part-funded by freezing the inheritance tax threshold at £325,000 for individuals and £650,000 for couples for three years from 2015, and by changes to National Insurance.
Michele Todd, a partner in law firm hlw Keeble Hawson in Sheffield, said that the Government wants people to plan now to cover a potential bill of £75,000 by taking out insurance or investment products that it was looking to the financial industry to offer.
However, she said the proposals would only help about 10 per cent of those affected in a system that is already a post code lottery, with different levels of help depending where you live. She added: “The £75,000 cap only relates to cost of the care itself. In addition you have to pay accommodation charges. That cap does not include accommodation or food charges.
“Somebody could be in care for 10 years. That’s an awful lot of money in terms of what it costs you to be in a home.”
The £75,000 limit on care costs is more than double that put forward by the Dilnot Commission that the government asked to look into the system.
Michele said that a major worry is that care for people with dementia is increasingly falling to local authorities, not the NHS even where there is a substantial “nursing need”.
She added: “People have gone out and worked all their lives, paid their taxes and there is still potentially a risk that their homes could be lost to their children. There is an awful lot to think about.
“People fall into two camps – the ones who think they want to look after their family say, ‘we’ve worked for this and want to pass it down to the children’. Or they say, ‘I’ve paid the children through school and at least if I’m paying I have a say on where I go and can make sure I can get the best quality of care for my money’.
Michele continued: “I’m having to tell clients that apart from anything else this may never be implemented and may just go by the wayside.
“It’s still a question of taking matters into their own hands, planning and preparing as best they can through inheritance tax and care fee planning. People need to go and get proper advice from a solicitor.”
She said it isn’t as simple as just giving assets like your home away to someone else. That can be classed as a deliberate deprivation of assets and is open to legal challenge from the local authority.
She added: “You can mitigate the impact by making sure your will is drawn up correctly. You don’t have to leave your estate outright to your spouse. If you include the appropriate trust provisions you can ring-fence at least part of the estate from the impact. People must get proper advice about this.”
Michele said it is also worth looking at giving someone a lasting power of attorney. There are two types, which can cover either looking after a person’s financial affairs or welfare when they can no longer do so themselves. A welfare lasting power of attorney means that someone would have the right to ensure that the person’s wishes are carried out on what type of healthcare they want, including refusing medical treatment, if they want to receive care at home or which residential home they want to go into.
ROTHERHAM Story Festival has been taking place this week in a special pop-up Story Shop on Corporation Street.
There are story activities for all ages including family story sharing workshops, plus textile art, film and digital technology, illustrating books, creative writing workshops and singer-songwriting.
Tomorrow, Friday, Ray Hearne is running a session from 10am to noon on grandma and grandad stories and Charlotte Ansell talks about Rotherham past and present at 2pm.
And on Saturday, Jennifer Booth will be looking at story arts from 10am and showing how to create a 30-second book at 2pm.
Children under eight need to be supervised by a parent or carer. For more information, go to www.inspirerotherham.org
There’s half-term panto fun for all the family with Jack and the Beanstalk in Worrall.
The show, put on by Worrall Community Association, runs from today, Thursday February 21, to Saturday at 7.15 pm, plus a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.
The venue is Worrall Memorial Hall in Towngate Road. Tickets (adults £5 and concessions £3.50) are available from Mike Blackburn. Tel 2862254 or email firstname.lastname@example.org